I was on vacation in Mammoth Lakes with my girlfriend. We had just eaten dinner. It was night. And now, it was time for me to drive off to continue the fun.

When some guys want to get away for an evening without their girlfriend, they might hit a bar. I grab my camera and go outside in the starlight.

I’ve always been a bit strange. Regardless, I waved goodbye while she settled in for an evening of HBO.

Mono Lake and the glorious Milky Way after 3 a.m. You can see the strange tufa formations, formed from a chemical reaction producing these odd limestone towers.

Starlight by the lake

I drove from Mammoth Lakes up to Mono Lake to photograph its otherworldly tufas. They formed when all this was once underwater.

I felt really creative this evening, having a lot of fun illuminating the tufas. I lit them with a warm white light from my ProtoMachines LED2 while the shutter of my tripod-mounted camera remained open for the exposure. I was thankful for a beautiful night, not too windy, but serene and gorgeous. I could easily see the Milky Way arching completely overhead, something that always fills me with awe.

The final epic photo

It was after 3 a.m. This was the last photo of the evening. I saved this shot for last because I wanted the Milky Way to drift over enough so it would look like it was emanating from the tallest tufa in this grouping. I had really been wanting to photograph the tufas with the Milky Way behind them. I am so happy that I was able to do so at long last.

I returned late at night.

This sort of arrangement has worked well, even on vacation. We are now married. I suppose we are doing something right.

Geek stuff

The camera and tripod were in the same place the whole time. I took one 2-minute photo at a low ISO for low noise, but also so I could have enough time to illuminate the tufa towers with my handheld light. Then I took multiple photos for the sky so I could reduce the noise.

I photographed with a Nikon D750 and Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens.

The earth portion of my frame was a 2-minute exposure, at f/8 and ISO 400. The sky consisted of 30 frames, each at 15s, f/2.8 and ISO 8000.

Mammoth Lakes

A Milky Way photo taken at Mammoth Lakes later during the trip. This particular photo was taken at approximately 9000 feet in elevation. For this photo, my girlfriend joined me even though she was shivering cold.